By Nnanke Harry Willie
Is it fathomable that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress could lose the 2023 elections?
Is it possible that a man with his famed deep pockets, political sagacity and unimpeachable strategic pedigree could lose the 2023 election to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate or the Labour Party (LP) candidate in the presidential elections?
While staunch Tinubu followers would swear that Tinubu is unbeatable as he is the ultimate political gladiator, objective analysts will insist that in politics, anything is possible. Critics would remind us that former President Goodluck Jonathan, despite a formidable structure and war chest, was defeated by a coalition that he probably never saw coming and that he took for granted.
It would seem that Tinubu is now guilty of not learning from history and has since the onset of this political cycle been taking his victory for granted. Unfortunately, rather than consolidating his coalitions, Tinubu, it seems, has been unwittingly fracturing it. Tinubu has thus far given the impression that he would win the elections with or without certain power blocs even within his own party, and with his recent outburst it seems he has just included the Buhari Presidency into that mix.
Nothing brings this to bold relief better than his recent meltdown in Ogun state where he tacitly accused the APC-led administration of working to sabotage the elections and ultimately sabotage his ascendancy into Nigeria’s presidential seat.
At a campaign rally in Ogun state this week, Tinubu said: “Let them increase the price of fuel, only them know where they have hoarded fuel, they hoarded money, they hoarded naira; we will go and vote and we will win. Even if they changed the ink on Naira notes. Whatever their plans, it will come to nought. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose (won ma lule).
A casual observer would think that Tinubu was in an opposition party, complaining about the ruling party. The truth however is that Bola Tinubu is the candidate of the ruling party, APC!
One would expect that being so well connected, Tinubu may know a thing or two about some unsavoury goings-on in government but Tinubu should likewise use his back-channels to reach out to his party members in power and try to find solutions to the various crises besetting the nation.
It is patently disingenuous to try and play the victim with a government that he famously claimed to have installed. It is on record that Tinubu kept mum through some of the most harrowing moments of this government’s tenure while the people wailed. Even when he found his voice, it was in support of the government. It is strange that he finds it appropriate to now not only criticise the same government that he has ‘protected’ against all odds in almost eight years but is actually claiming to be the target of whatever he considers their lapses or ‘punitive’ policies.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has said the CBN policy on the redesigned naira notes is to among other things stop moneybags from intimidating Nigerian voters with their money and thugs. According to him, he wants Nigerians to feel free to vote for leaders of their choice.
If Tinubu believes that he is a target of Naira redesign policy, then Nigeria owes a debt of gratitude to President Buhari as Tinubu has to date failed to explain what 2 bullion vans were doing in his Bourdillon, Ikoyi, Lagos residence on the eve of the 2019 elections. It beggars belief that Tinubu can publicly complain about any policy to checkmate vote-buying, thuggery and voter-intimidation. Tinubu totally lost me on this one.
I had written earlier about the shortcomings of the Tinubu strategy of combat politics. It seems, he has just taken it to an even higher pedestal. I had said that, “When you wittingly or unwittingly expand your enemy base, you create a formidable opposition that will quickly erode your otherwise huge fanatical base. Indeed, you unwittingly stimulate fence-sitters into rising up in support of those you are trying to vilify.”
I had said, “The combat strategy is not working for Tinubu because unlike his previous political expeditions, he is not in opposition. He is supposed to be riding on the waves of the Buhari Presidency. Unfortunately, the team has not been coherent in pushing the Buhari administration’s positives, they have rather focused on the ‘Lagos miracles’ as well as on a self-exhausting anti-Peter Obi and anti-Atiku campaign.”
Now that Tinubu has added anti-government diatribes to his campaign strategy, he can only expect that the sharks will now be all out for him. Unlike him, their anti-Tinubu plots may not be publicly deployed but surely, there will be a backlash from the Buhari administration. This will not be good news for a Tinubu campaign that lacks the kind of organic traction of the Peter Obi campaign or the traditional party-base support of the PDP in the north.
It appears that Tinubu came into this election cycle with the same strategy he deployed on behalf of Buhari in the 2015 and 2019 elections. It was a bad mistake!
Firstly, the opposition and electorate have since decoded that strategy and have deployed appropriate counter-offensives. That is why the “Obidients” overwhelmed his cyber campaign team earlier in the election cycle and as usual, they resorted to playing victims in a game they perfected. A staple that was served to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan and his team to no end in the build-up to the 2015 elections.
Secondly, Tinubu seemed to have underestimated the sweeping reforms that the 2022 Electoral Act brought to the table and thus failed to align his strategy for victory with the provisions of the Act. The godfather approach will no longer work under the circumstances. It is also possible that the beneficiaries of his famed largesse are the one goading him onto the precipice.
Finally, Tinubu failed to recognize the deep pain and anguish that sections of the Nigerian people feel towards the APC government whether it is misplaced or not. Tinubu failed to connect with the people when it mattered most. Why should he think people should connect with his ‘pains’ now that he is supposedly at the receiving end?
With about four weeks to election day, Tinubu still has a fighting chance of winning the presidential election but only if he reviews his strategy and stops the unforced errors and obvious self-sabotaging slips. It is simply not working.
Anything less means that the Jagaban Borgu, as Tinubu is also well known, will not be able to achieve his ‘life-long dream’ of being the President of Nigeria. At least, not this time.
Nnanke Harry Willie